Warning flags were waving like mad in his head already. When she came out, the first few seconds was taken in with a critical eye. Everything from the small wet patch on the corner of her sleeve to the grim line of her mouth. Distress. Throughout the entire time that he'd known her, he couldn't say that he had seen quite like this before. So shut down and shut out. She was there, talking to them but the words were automatic and didn't match her eyes. The way she talked was weird. Not quite rehearsed but they felt automatic. Words planned ahead. Charlie was in default mode. What put her there, he wanted to know. The fact that she wouldn't tell them who was on the phone made him even more curious. But it wasn't that he was nosy or anything. Was it wrong of him to want to know the reason behind her sudden behavior change? It wasn't that he needed to know everything about her either. Or maybe he did. But it was a want, not a need. It wasn't necessary but he'd welcome the conversation.
He was a hypocrite, of course, because the last thing he wanted to talk about was his own past.
If only self-loathing could be turned off with a switch.
The warning flags burst into bright neon flames when Charlie asked to borrow the truck. Both of Royce's eyebrows shot up. If they hadn't been attached to his head, they would have shot through the roof. He had never heard Charlie ask something like that. Sure, she'd driven the truck before but out of town? Out of New Hope? Just the thought of her putting one hair outside of New Hope terrified the hell out of him. What in the world would possess her to do something like this? He didn't know who it was that Charlie had talked to but it was clear now that whoever it was, they were forcing Charlie to meet them out of town for whatever damn reason. An old boyfriend? But she had never mentioned. Neither had he.
Now she was telling them that she was going to be gone for more than an hour? Maybe longer? What? But the old man tossed her the keys and told her not to get into any trouble, which really just jinxed the whole thing. And like that, she was grabbing her things and getting ready to leave. He was still too stunned by it all to react much to her kiss other than to stare as she walked out. He heard the rev of the old truck. Twice it failed and he hoped that the third time would fail too. It didn't and Charlie was blazing down the street like a woman possessed.
Royce would have followed Charlie whether the old man told him to or not. He respected Doc but he worried more about Charlie. If the old guy got into trouble of his own, Royce guessed he'd worry too for him but not as much as he would for Charlie. The Doc knew how to handle himself. He'd been around the farm plenty of times. Maybe too many. Royce didn't have to worry.
With Charlie ... he did.
Thankfully, Rosemary didn't object to having to change and come back to the clinic to actually work. Whether Charlie noticed or not but all three of them could tell that something was up. Once Rosey was back at the clinic (in two tail shakes minutes), Royce ducked out the back and took off. It took some dodging and maneuvering through the town but eventually he caught up to her on the open highway out of town. Luckily, they weren't living in the middle of the desert and there was plenty of forest to hide in. Charlie was freaked out enough by that phone call. Having a wolf suddenly pop out and chase her down the road would not have been good.
Damn. She was really giving that truck a go for it's money, wasn't she? Even Royce had trouble keeping up with the truck. He was still over a hundred yards away-